Mark Manson successfully built a monthly readership of millions with his unconventional approach to personal development.
This New York-based bestselling author, blogger and entrepreneur knows a thing or two about putting it all out there, and finding success in the process. Offering “a counterintuitive approach to living a good life,” Mark’s unexpected writing career began with blogging and evolved into a book currently listed as #1 on Amazon’s Motivational Self-Help New Release list.
How would you introduce yourself to someone on a plane?
These days, I usually just say, “I’m a writer.” But my “official” bio thing usually says, “author, blogger, entrepreneur.”
How would you describe your main audience?
I often say that I write self-help for people who hate self-help — people who want to improve their lives or who are struggling, but are skeptical of the usual positivity, feel-good stuff all the time.
Where do you pull your inspiration from?
My inspiration is drawn from my own life and my own issues. As weird as it sounds, being read by millions of people, I actually write for myself first. Everything on my site and in my books is something I’ve struggled with myself. Then afterward I look at it and decide if it can be fashioned in such a way that other people will enjoy it and benefit from it. I honestly just started writing because it was fun and kind of therapeutic. If you told me when I started blogging if it would turn into a career, I would have laughed at you.
Can you describe what it was like getting your first payment for your writing?
A relief more than anything. I was dead broke at the time, haha.
You share a lot of personal stories and details in your writing. What is it like to have such vulnerability exposed on the internet and what does it take to grow that tough skin?
It’s weird at first. But then you kind of get used to it. It’s something you practice. Just like you practice your writing skills, you practice your vulnerability skills by putting your stuff out there, showing it to people, getting feedback (positive and negative). At first it will be heart-attack-inducing and your emotions will fly up and down the roller coaster of validation. But eventually you’ll learn to calm down and take it all a little less personally.
I personally believe that one of the best ways to overcome your insecurities is to just lay them out there in the open for others to see them. So, in the end, I think it’s made me a much stronger person.
What’s your favorite type of situation to write about?
I like writing things that are surprising or perhaps counter-intuitive — stuff that the reader would never assume at first — and then explaining them. For instance, did you know that serial killers and rapists typically have extremely high self-esteem? I love stuff like that. I think it’s so fascinating.
Which of your articles is your personal favorite?
When you get stuck, how do you get past that point of writer’s block?
I ask myself, “What would make this fun to write?” Usually the answer is something really ridiculous and irreverent — something that seems completely inappropriate at first. So then I write that. Sometimes those end up being some of my best articles.
With over 2 million monthly readers and over 350,000 Facebook followers, what do you think is the number one thing that has led to your success?
I think people like my honesty. My wife sometimes tells people, “Mark is so honest that sometimes it hurts to hear it.” I think that sums up my work pretty well.
Typically people who start businesses and become very successful outsource almost everything. In addition to your writing, what’s the one thing you continue to do yourself?
Correspondence with my readers. I don’t have time to reply to everything I get these days, but I feel pretty strongly that I need to keep that line of communication open, to hear that feedback and see what’s going on in people’s lives.
You’ve recently written a book…what made you decide to expand your writing offline?
I had a bunch of ideas that felt way too big for blog posts. Also, the internet is fickle. Books can potentially outlive the author. That, and I just love books.
When it’s all said and done, why do you continue to do what you do?
I think because I enjoy it and I’m good at it. And apparently, I can’t really help myself. Even when I try to take “time off” I often find myself writing long three-page replies on Facebook or Reddit (yeah, I’m *that* guy). Writing is just something that seems to happen in my life whether I want it to or not. So I guess I ended up in the “write” place (har har).
Finally, what are the top 3 tips for all the freelancers, entrepreneurs, and passion-pursuers out there to become successful?
- Leverage your fear – that is, you are going to be scared no matter what you do, the question is whether you learn to use that fear to be productive or not
- In the beginning, treat every job as if it’s the most important in your life, there’s no better publicity than great work
- Always be willing to question yourself and try something new — almost nobody gets it right the first time, or the 21st, or the 51st time.